Young people have been hard hit by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. And while there are signs that the economy is recovering, alongside the potential of looming labour shortages, official figures show there were 166,000 fewer young people (16-24) in the UK in employment in June 2021 (3.7million) compared with March 2020 (3.9million). 


Young people and the pandemic

Alongside this, new survey data from the CIPD, based on responses from 2,064 young people (aged 18 – 30), finds that 43% of them feel the pandemic has harmed their long-term career prospects. This may be because they’ve lost their job, the industry or organisation they want to work in now has fewer openings, or working from home has meant they’ve missed out on networking and development opportunities.

For those currently out of work, the survey data found that 50%  have been out of work for over 12 months, half (49%) are not confident about finding any work in the next three months, and 14% have applied for more than 30 jobs in the last three months. The survey also found that over half of those not in work (51%) have not accessed any support services to help them look for work.

Young people and unemployment

Unemployment when young can have damaging long-term consequences, leading to scarring, increased likelihood of future unemployment spells and poorer health and mental health outcomes. Young people are often left at the back of the queue with employers tending to favour experienced workers.

CIPD's One Million Chances campaign

That’s why the CIPD has launched One Million Chances, a campaign which aims to help undo the damage done to young people’s career prospects due to Covid and help address staff shortages blighting many businesses.

Yet while employers recognise the value that young people bring to their organisations, those who want to support young people often face a confusing and fragmented landscape of government initiatives, bodies and programmes that can act as a barrier to engagement. That’s why the CIPD have worked with the Strategic Development Network to develop a practical guide dedicated to major youth employment programmes: to help clarify the landscape and to support organisations making decisions about the programmes and initiatives that can help both young people, and organisations, build forward better.

Programmes to support young people into work

Many employers have already stepped up to support young people during this challenging time, including through the CIPD’s own Steps Ahead mentoring programme, and have offered work placements via the Kickstart Scheme. Yet, while almost 250,000 placements approved, just a fraction of the placements have been filled, with the scheme due to end in December 2021. Given the likelihood of further disruption and ongoing uncertainty in the job market, we're calling on the Government to extend the Kickstart Scheme until the end of 2022, to ensure that more young people can benefit from a step up into the jobs market. 

About the author

Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills

Lizzie is a policy and research professional with over 13 years’ experience in the employment and skills arena, having worked with both the public and private sector to develop high-quality research to inform organisational practice, public policy and shape the public debate.

Prior to joining the CIPD Lizzie led The Work Foundation's research and policy development on the youth labour market – and has published a number of influential reports on youth unemployment. She has regularly appeared on national and regional TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC the One Show, the Today Programme and Channel 4 news. Lizzie graduated in Sociology and has a master's degree in Social Science Research Methods, both from the University of Glasgow.

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